The Serpent in the Sword: Part 3

Uploaded by mintwart on 12.03.2012

The previous videos in this series showed the process of forging a pattern-welded double-edged
sword similar to swords created by Anglo-Saxon or Viking-age sword smiths.
While the sword blade has been finished, a lot of work yet remains before the sword is
complete, but only a few steps require further forging of metal. In the following you will
see how the lower and upper guards are being forged as well as the pommel.
However, before any work can be done, the coke fire needs to be lighted.
As an added benefit working with a coal forge is much more enjoyable than with a gas forge.
The process for all three pieces is quite similar. A slot punch is used to pierce the
metal. This widens the steel and creates a nice opening while removing almost no material.
I frequently cool the punch to prevent it from loosing hardness.
In addition to creating the opening, the slotting also widens the piece which helps with creating
the boat-like shape we expect from the guard of a Viking-age sword.
As you can see, the slot is clean and the steel wider.
The lower guard requires a recess that fits the complete width of the sword. To create
the recess as well as the blade tang transition, a punch with the same geometry as the sword
blade is used.
I try to align the punch so that it splits the middle which can be difficult.
The upper guard is easier to create since it only needs a slot punched. The final shaping
of both the lower and upper guard is going to happen via a belt sander rather than by
The form of the pommel is based on a sword found in Haithabu, Schleswig-Holstein and
described in a publication by Geibig from 1999. The geometry is quite complicated and
the forging here establishes the wide base as well as a cavity which helps with reducing
the weight of the pommel.
Once the forging is done, further forming of the guards and pommel is done by hand and
with a belt sander. As mentioned before, the dimensions are based on an historic find.
I find it difficult to create a completely flat surface on the belt sander and some times
resort to files to do so.
The pommel piece is more complicated to form since it contains multiple compound curves.
To create the shape I want, I apply the square, round and octagon method known from black
Rivets are used to attach the pommel to the upper guard. This requires that the holes
are completely aligned. To make sure that the guard does not move against the pommel,
the two pieces were glued together before drilling the holes.
The rivets are made from 1/8in round steel and brazed to the pommel using a portable
I actually needed multiple attempts to get the rivets successfully brazed since controlling
the temperature can be difficult.
The next step is to create a wooden hilt core.
I use the bandsaw to establish roughly the right shape.
Holes are drilled along the width of the tang. Although, not shown here, the holes go all
the way through.
To get a good fit, the tang is burned into the wood. Before that can happen, the initial
opening needs to be created by hand using files.
Heating up the tang needs to be done carefully since the blade has been hardened and must
not become too hot.
To deal with the heat building up, I occasionally sprayed down the tang with water, although
that is not shown in the video.
Once the tang fits snugly into the wood, the final shape of the hilt with respect to the
sword is established.
This is done by using the band saw and the belt sander as well as sand paper.
Although, it is difficult to see on the video, the wooden core is quite small and only about
1/8in thick.
Before the wood can be covered with leather, it is wrapped with hemp cord. This increases
the strength of the grip and gives the leather a better surface to hold on to.
This is a process I have almost no experience with and based on a tutorial from Peter Johnsson
on Don Fogg's forums. I found the whole business quite stressful.
To create a better grip for the hilt, I also glue on a riser from thicker hemp cord.
The main issue here is to secure the start of the cord so that it does not come loose.
I just wait for the hide glue to become somewhat sticky.
The leather for the hilt should not be too thick. Here goat leather is used, which is
about 1.2mm thick and easy to form. It also has an interesting surface texture.
Another challenge I struggle with is to keep the work clean so that the leather does not
get dirty since the leather surface can blemish quite easily.
Before it can be wrapped around the hilt, the edges of the leather need to be thinned
down with a skiv. This will create a seam that is almost invisible.
After thinning the leather, it is soaked in warm water for a few minutes to make it more
Afterwards, it is dyed with leather dye. While the leather is wet, the dye can penetrate
deeply and evenly.
The final step in preparing the leather is to coat it and the hilt with hide glue. Hide
glue takes a long time to set which makes the positioning of the leather onto the hilt
a little bit easier.
But just to be clear, I don't think it's easy at all.
To hide the ends of the leather at the guards, a small bit of leather is folded over itself.
The leather is then fitted around the hilt so that the seam lies at the narrow part of
the hilt.
At this point everything is quite slippery and the leather had a tendency to move around
a lot.
Finally thicker hemp cord is wrapped around the hilt. The wrapping forces the leather
down onto the under wrap. The leather is then left to dry.
At this point, some glue may leak from the seam, so I try to remove any excess glue before
wrapping that part of the hilt with cord.
Once everything is dry and the hide glue set, the outer hemp wrapping is removed and the
finished hilt is revealed.
At this point, I fit all the pieces together to see how they look like. While the guards
and pommel still need to be inlayed, it is starting to look like a sword. More next time.